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Meth Contaminated Apartments – Discrete vs. Composite Sampling

Posted by james@uaahq.org on December 8th, 2015

Today we are talking about the difference in discrete sampling and composite sampling when it comes to meth contamination in apartments. Landlords should never rent contaminated properties, so the state of Utah has set a standard that tells us to what level we must clean up our properties before renting them out. Remember, it’s not every level that we need to clean up. Just like in our drinking water, the EPA allows a few parts per billion of arsenic in the water supply. It won’t hurt us. Even a poisonous substance isn’t poisonous at trace amounts. Meth is the same – at certain levels, it’s not dangerous to the public. You can have low levels of meth without endangering anyone. The law won’t require you to go to great expense to clean up an uncontaminated apartment.


Discrete sampling is the way most scientists think you should do sampling. It’s the most accurate method and it provides the least potential for abuse. However, for some reason, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department is allowing composite sampling. They’re telling us it’s to make this more affordable.

Here’s how composite sampling works. Let’s say you have four cups of water and the health department says that in each cup you can have up to 4 marshmallows before it’s contaminated but at five marshmallows you have to clean it up. You might put one marshmallow in each cup except the last cup, where you have two marshmallows. You can see we are not exceeding the contamination levels, so we shouldn’t be required to clean up. But composite sampling will test all the cups together. Instead of testing each cup, they’re combining the marshmallows into one cup for the test. There are five total, so you’ll have to spend the $10,000 replacing carpets, furnaces and other systems to clean up the apartment.

Meth contamination specialists obviously prefer composite sampling. Renters trying to get out of their lease want this method also. You can see why a property buyer or a Realtor would want the test to fail. They get $10,000 of upgrades, with a new furnace and carpets and paint. But it’s not fair and it’s not reasonable. We have asked the Salt Lake Valley Health Department to fix it.

If you have any questions about this, please contact us at the Utah Apartment Association.
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